Pride flags at 4 Windsor-Essex public schools vandalized or stolen

·3 min read
The Pride flag flies outside the administration office of the Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor, Ont., in a photo posted to the board's Twitter account. (Greater Essex County District School Board/Twitter - image credit)
The Pride flag flies outside the administration office of the Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor, Ont., in a photo posted to the board's Twitter account. (Greater Essex County District School Board/Twitter - image credit)

The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) said Pride flags at four schools in the region have been stolen or vandalized this week.

School within the board, along with board offices, are flying the Pride flag this month as a show of support for LGBTQ students and staff.

Police have been contacted and will be investigating the incidents, the board said on Friday.

"Certainly we would like the perpetrators brought to justice because nobody should feel that they're in any danger," said Josh Canty, superintendent of education.

"The flags were put up for a reason, so that our students feel included and safe, all of our students feel that they're in a welcoming space, and for people to do this — it's just a heinous crime. It's a hate crime and the police are aware and they're following up."

In a statement to CBC News, Const. Talya Natyshak of Windsor police confirmed the service is investigating a report of mischief and theft involving a Pride flag at a local high school and encouraged anyone with information to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

Canty said they were able to put flags back up in those schools and received calls thanking them for doing so.

"They realize that we're listening. This isn't something we're going to sweep under the rug," he said. "Of course, there's going to be pushback when when people are trying to do good things sometimes. But we're here to support our staff and students, and now we're going to double down and ensure our support."

Sydney Brouillard-Coyle, education lead and non-binary peer mentor at Trans Wellness Ontario, described the incidents as a disappointment and said it's a sign that more work must be done.

"We know that this type of hate is a reality for many trans and queer folks, and especially young folks who experience this within school settings," said Brouillard-Coyle, whose pronouns are ney, nem and nir.

Noting the higher rates of harassment, discrimination and suicide LGBTQ people face, ney said the community needs more vocal allies.

"It is up to everybody, up to teachers, up to school boards, up to individuals, health-care providers, everyone within every field to do the work to ensure that their spaces are safe, to do the work to learn how to be allies, how to be effective allies, supporting trans and queer folks," ney said.

Supports available at school, in the community

Trans Wellness Ontario offers services such as mentorship, counselling and social drop-ins, ney said.

"It's important to be with other folks in the community who understand what it's like to go through something like this and just to know that you're not alone. So those who are affected, I definitely encourage you to reach out to us because we are here to support you," Brouillard-Coyle said.

The school board said that any students or staff affected by these incidents, or any others, are urged to speak with administration or a trusted adult to get support.  A link to mental health and well-being supports is available on the board's website.

Windsor police say high school resource officers can also help connect students to appropriate supports within their school.

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